Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings


Destined to live a life tragically cut short, Walter Zellot’s (6 October 1920-Sept 1943) misfortune was that he was born on the wrong side of history. Austrian by birth, Zellot graduated from Luftwaffe fighter training in November 1940, and thus missed the Battle of Britain by a sliver. But a bigger battle was unfolding for Germany in 1941. As part of 1./Jagdgeschwader 53, Zellot found himself flying into action against the Russians on the first day of Operation “Barbarossa,” the colossal German invasion of the Soviet Union. Zellot ended the day having shot down his first kill of the war, a Russian I-16 fighter. By July 31, he had shot down a total of 10 planes. That November, I/JG53 was relocated to Sicily, where it began operations against Malta. Zellot shot down a single Hurricane on December 12, but his greatest success over the island was in April 1942, when he shot down two Spitfires, the second flown by Squadron Leader John Bisdee of 601 Squadron. In May, I/JG53 returned to the Eastern Front to the support the German summer offensive. In what would prove to be a prolific period, Zellot scored heavily. There seemed no end to his meteoric rise. By September 10, his tally was at 86 confirmed kills. That same day, however, his limitless talent met its end. While on a low-level sweep against Soviet troops northwest of Stalingrad, ack-ack tore the tail from Zellot’s Me109G and the fighter careened towards the ground. Zellot bailed out but hit the earth before his parachute could open.

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